A Metropolis without Culture [Archives:2001/26/Focus]

June 25 2001

By: Hassan Al-Haifi 
“Boy, is the city of Sana’a big! How did it grew so fast and so wide?” asked Walid to his father, as they headed towards the Hadda area. 
“Don’t ask how, ask why”, said the father, continuing “You see, son Sana’a should not have gotten out of its walls, for the simple reason that there is nothing really to attract people to this crater. Why if it was not for this ugly thing called centralization probably nobody would be here.” 
“Dad, we use to hear about Hadda and Rawdha and even Al-Hasaba as being far away places from Sana’a, now it seems that the city has engulfed them all. Where else an the city grew to?” continued Walid with his questions. 
The father tried to skirt his way through a couple of a couple of brats chasing each other between the cars, exclaiming: “You little rats, this is not a playground, why do not you go back to your villages, there is a lot of open places there you can chase each other”The son wanted to kid his father’s prejudice streak: “Father, these are kids of former Sana’a residents, they have a house down the road on their former farmland.”Son, you cannot fool me one bit, I know the Sana’ani kids when I see them. These guys are wearing their sneakers open, whereas the Sana’anis wear their sneakers tied! Sana’anis have been wearing sneakers longer than these new entrants to the city. I bet you that these people do not even have socks”. 
“Come on Dad, I think you are exaggerating the cultural differences between former city dwellers and the new comers to the city”, said Walid trying to tone down the father’s misconceptions about the urban dwellers of these days. 
Just as he made a turn towards the right a bag loaded with garbage hit the roof of the car, and spread its ugly contents evenly on the roof and the front windshield glass of the car with some streaking down to the side windows. The father screamed out the window: “When will you people leave our city and go back to the hills of Tihama where you came from?” 
“Dad, these people are not from Tihama they look to me like they are from Arhab”, look at their children running around with toy guns.” again the boy was trying to correct the background of the city dwellers. 
“Tihama or Arhab or Sanhan, I do not care, all of them should go back where they came from and leave us with the few thousands that use to live in the city and knew each other’s name by heart!” aid the father, trying to clean out the mess at the windshield by the windshield wipers, but only made the mess more streaky. 
“Dad, try to sprout out some water from those holes there.” Said the boy trying to relieve some of his father’s frustrations. 
“Those holes were blocked by those nasty kids from Raimah who live down the block from our house. I do not know why our neighbor let those guys move into his house, they have been a menace to all car owners in the street, since they rented that house two years ago”, said the father. 
Dad, they ought the house already from our former neighbor and are now considered bona fide Sana’anis. Actually it was the sons of the Mahmoud clan who clogged your windshield cleaners and not the Raimis. My little brother had checked it out with the boys in the neighborhood, and it turned out to be the former Sana’ani family that used to live across that sealed those wholes with chewing gum from Al-Mahara province, which is hard to get off.” 
“You cannot tell that Sana’ani kids would do such a thing. Sana’ani kids are well mannered and respect their neighbors’ rights. It is these outsiders who create all the havoc in the city”, insisted the father rather naively. 
“Oh Dad, you must realize that in these times everybody is just fed up whether they come from Sanhan or Sa’awan or wherever, everybody is just frustrated and doing whatever they like in anger at the appalling state of the nation. Children are angry because they have no place to play in the summer, and their dads have no money to send them out on trips. Women are angry because their husbands bring home garbage for food, so they threw it out the window, hoping it would hit a government official’s car, out of spite. Those little kids you saw running were probably hoping to get hit, just so they can make a little blood money for injuries sustained in the accident, to add some meager funds to the household budget. It is really is unbelievable how anger can hit a city’s population if it gets out of hand.” The boy explained what all the heat that the city was showing was all about. 
“Son, I do not care what is angering them or driving them to this madness, but I only wished to get life back to the good old days, when every house in Sana’a was self sustaining in everything from water to eggs, and everyone looked out for everyone else and felt cozy with each other. Sana’a was really one big family then. Now it is nothing but a big monster that eats at you inside” said the father. 
Dad what ever happened to those green hills that used to surround the Hadda area, they have all been changed to cement and stone cubicles, said Walid somewhat disturbed. 
The father finally came out with a solution: “Son, I think the only recourse for us is to try to move all the former people of the city of Sana’a out to Socotra, where they can recreate their happy cultured life there all alone. It seems that Sana’a has attracted all the cultureless people of Yemen, who do not care about greenery, cleanliness or neighborliness, and just wanted to live in Sana’a to find an easy unproductive life – close to it all, but really far away from any meaningful life.